How do we rebrand Christianity in a Crisis? Christianity is amidst an identity crisis and must redefine its brand to a post-modern Christian world. Why is it essential for the Church to rebrand Christianity now? Whose responsibility is it to rebrand Christianity in a crisis? What practical steps can we take to rebrand Christianity today?
Why is it essential for the Church to rebrand Christianity now?
The Church has an image problem. There is a disconnect between how the Church views itself and how the outside world perceives it. Let me illustrate.
How do Christians view themselves? We consider ourselves individuals gathered in small groups to do well because of what Christ has done for us. We view ourselves as loving and gracious people.
How do others view the Church and Christians? The world sees us as one massive monstrosity seeking to remake the world in its image.
Bigoted, hateful, self-righteous, smug, arrogant, hypocritical, dangerous, and delusionary are disparaging terms used to describe the Church.
The sad truth is that sometimes, these descriptions are accurate.
The Church must lovingly demonstrate who we are, what we stand for, and why Christianity matters to this generation.
Whose responsibility is it to rebrand Christianity in a crisis?
Someone should speak up and clarify what it means to follow Christ. But who will it be?
Some individuals are waiting for those outside the Church to seek the truth about Christianity. Most unchurched individuals do not attend the library and ask, “Can you show me all the books about knowing God?” Some exceptions exist, but most people form their opinion about Christianity and the Church from the news, social media sources, and individual interactions.
Some hope their local pastor or denominational leader will speak up as a good and loving voice to redefine Christianity. Many pastors are speaking up, but they rarely can talk directly with someone who is not attending their Church.
But the one voice that carries the most weight, that people are willing to listen to and discuss what Christianity is about is the most reluctant to speak up.
That person is you.
I know you feel unqualified and inadequate for the task. That is part of the reason that you are the right choice. Humility is needed to discuss our faith.
God has clearly stated in His Word that we are responsible for his brand as His followers. So, you and I must be ready to answer when people ask us to explain what Christianity means to us as an individual.
What practical steps can we take to rebrand Christianity today?
So, where do we begin if we accept our responsibility as brand ambassadors for Christ? But, then, how do we proceed to redefine what Christianity means to others?
We can learn from the most significant response to a historical brand crisis.
The Tylenol Crisis of 1982 can help us understand how to Rebrand Christianity.
Johnson & Johnson faced a crisis over their identity and branding when their product Tylenol was tampered with, and in 1982, Seven people in Chicago died due to cyanide poisoning. The FBI determined that the bottles were tampered with after leaving the plant. However, no one was ever tried or convicted of the crime.
Al Hilburg was responsible for Johnson & Johnson’s response to its brand crisis. His approach has become the textbook response to restoring a damaged reputation.
Here is my summary of the five key lessons that Hilburg learned from the experience.
- Values are important. They inform our responses. Johnson & Johnson’s core values were to serve their customers who were dependent on the medication and products they provided. They were concerned about their customer’s safety, impacting every decision they made during the crisis.
- Focus on continuing to serve others well, with a focus on the victims of the crisis. Johnson & Johnson notified the public about the problem and voluntarily recalled their product from the shelves.
- Assume responsibility for the solution, whether or not you are the source of the problem. Johnson & Johnson exchanged the capsules for caplets. They created the first tamper-proof bottle that is still the industry standard.
- Act quickly, honestly, and decisively. Johnson & Johnson responded immediately to the crisis.
- Good behavior delivers excellent returns. Johnson & Johnson became synonymous with trust and received a larger market share due to their actions.
What can we learn from their responses?
Our values are essential. We must understand and live according to our core values. Christianity teaches that we are all created in God’s image, of infinite importance to Him, and that He unconditionally loves us. These core values should impact our every interaction with everyone we encounter.
We need to continue to serve others well. But we need to ask them how we can best help them. Unfortunately, we often assume we know what they need and are blind to opportunities to make a lasting impact.
We must proactively seek solutions to problems facing the people we want to serve, even those we did not cause. The only way to address those issues is by going to where they are and creating safe venues for them to speak. We may not be responsible for the harm caused by another church, but we can be responsible for the healing.
We need to take action today. We can begin to pursue loving, honest, and grace-filled relationships now. We can speak up when someone who claims to represent Christianity is out of line. It’s time to silence their voices. They do not speak for us. I know that this will be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. We have allowed legalistic, racist, judgmental voices to go uncorrected when spoken as if they represented the Church. It needs to stop now.
Doing the right thing at the right time always pays off for all the right reasons. Our good behaviors, loving others without an agenda, and working for our community’s common good will bring fruit in its season. In addition, loving God will cause us to seek relationships and partnerships that may be uncomfortable.
Can you find an opportunity to love someone unconditionally? To speak up when someone is out of line and is using hateful speech? Will you be a brand ambassador for Christ?
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*This article was originally published on August 17, 2020, but has been updated.